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Firefighters capture video of a "firenado"

CBS News logo CBS News 8/8/2018 Caitlin O'kane

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Firefighters in Derbyshire, England, captured a strange and frightening natural phenomenon on video Tuesday. It looks like a tornado that's on fire, and the Leicestershire Fire and Rescue Service Ashby Station appropriately referred to it as a "firenado."

The video of the menacing, swirling flames has gone viral online, and the fire and rescue service offered a simple explanation as to what caused the blazing cyclone. "It's created as cool air enters the top of the hot air causing a swirl similar to how a tornado is formed," Leicestershire Fire and Rescue Service Ashby Station wrote on Facebook.

Whist we were firefighting at Occupation Lane we witnessed a firenado or a fire whirl it's created as cool air enters the top of the hot air causing a swirl similar to how a tornado is formed. #Station26 #LFRS

Posted by Leicestershire Fire and Rescue Service Ashby Station on Tuesday, August 7, 2018

The firenado — also known as a fire whirl — was spotted when crews were sent to battle a blaze in Albert Village. The video has been viewed nearly 300,000 times on Facebook. 

a blurry image of a sunset: firenado-gif-downsized-large.gif © Facebook/Leicestershire Fire and Rescue Service Ashby Station firenado-gif-downsized-large.gif A similar sight was recently reported in California, where over a dozen wildfires continue to rage. When the deadly Carr Fire exploded last month, it leapt across the Sacramento River and hit subdivisions in the Redding area. "They say it was like a fire tornado," said Chris Corona, who lives in the area where the fire was burning. "People started driving on the curbs, through lawns, everyone was running."

The ambient air temperature in the area was close to 110 degrees at the time, "so that air is super fast rising into the atmosphere," Lonnie Quinn, chief weathercaster for CBS New York, explained.

"You need to think of this as the air being a solid, and if you're taking a chunk of that air, superheating it and rising into the air, it's leaving a void below it," Quinn said.

As more and more air gets pulled in, it begins to rotate. The more air that gets pulled in, the faster the air swirls and the taller it gets. Firenados also pick up burning embers, ash and flammable debris, and can extend hundreds or even thousands of feet in the air.

"Firenado" seen in California wildfire is a scientific phenomenon
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